Bridles, Broodmares and Beaux

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Vicar Pearce's Sunday Sermon, May 23, 1805

"Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body."

Brothers and sisters, is it wrong to bridle our horses? Would you say, let that horse be free! Let it run wild! Don't break its spirit.

As romantic as these ideas are, the horse will then be of no value to you. We want a horse to work with us, to turn at gee and haw, to stop at whoa. Our work is not to break the horse's spirit, but to teach it, train it, let it understand us.

We must also be bridled, as our finest horses are. We should be as sensitive as the finest riding mount, that when the slightest touch of the reins instructs the horse, it reacts swiftly and surely. Can we be in tune with our maker's reins? Can we trust that He guides the way down life's paths?

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Vicar Pearce noticed when his daughter Amanda leaned forward, presumably to fetch a handkerchief from her reticule, though her glance first found the young men sitting two rows behind her. At sixteen, he imagined she found the curve of their tight coats over broad shoulders much more fascinating than his sermon.

"And yet," his voice rose with a lilt, "there is no lack of attention our Father gives us. He sees all our actions, for He who knows when even a sparrow falls, will surely know if our hearts are in the right place." He raised his eyebrows as Amanda's attention suddenly redirected and she began to blush. Vicar Pearce gave a slight nod as Amanda's gaze dropped to her lap, and her two sisters, one on each side, shot a reprimanding glance toward her. Rachel sniffed and Marian pressed her lips tightly together, then looked to their mother. But Marielle Pearce was busy with her lace fan, eyes half closed. The vicar cleared his throat and continued.

"As the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians..." he paused to turn in his Bible. When he looked back up, Marian was just turning her chin. Well, let her look, too. The gentlemen might be only a few years older than Marian, and perhaps even more suitable for Rachel.

But his eldest daughter didn't seem interested at all. She picked at the lace edge of her glove as the sermon continued.

The service ended with a hymn, and the vicar stepped down and came toward the congregation. He stopped to take his wife's hand and acknowledge her compliments, then smiled to his daughters. He felt a pang as he reached for his son, the youngest, and then remembered he had gone to sea three months ago. It was not unusual for a boy of twelve to enter the navy, but his absence pained him. He pushed the melancholy aside to greet his other neighbors and friends.

Once he'd arrived at the outer doors, the congregation began to make their way down the lane toward town or to awaiting carriages. He bid them each good day while his family tied on bonnets and buttoned cloaks. Finally the church was empty. He hung up his vestments then nodded to the deacon, who would put out the candles, and led his family toward the vicarage on the other side of the cemetery and glebe that surrounded the church.

"My dears," he began, "I think we have much to learn from today's sermon."

"But Father, you gave the sermon," Amanda smiled. "How can you learn more from it?"

"I find it most instructive when I watch the reactions of my little flock. When Lord Ellsworth or Mr. Barker nod in agreement, I know I've conveyed a point of truth. When Lady Ellsworth yawns, I know I've moved into deep doctrine." Here he turned to Amanda. "And when my own daughter gets wandering eyes, perhaps the style of oration has become a little dry."

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